What does it look or feel like? How does it work for you, especially in your work with young children? How do you balance emergent curriculum with structure and planning?
I plan the classes in advance and I have a structure to help me guide the work. In a typical situation, my class includes a gathering, a warm-up (normally I use the Brain Dance adapted to the theme of the class), an exploration, improvisation, show and reflection and a closing circle. So that’s my basic structure, but I can make changes in the moment I am teaching based on what I see during the class. So I can change the order of the class and I open space for ideas, movements, and suggestions coming from the kids. So, emergent curriculum is a way to incorporate what emerges during the class coming from the students – their movements, ideas, and suggestions.
Let’s think about a concrete example: The theme of my class is the ocean water and the ocean animals. During the exploration, I’ll give some prompts encouraging kids to move like the water in the ocean in different ways – like a big wave at the beach, or a small one; water that is very calm or very fast, swirling, etc. When kids are moving, I’ll name the movements I see and I can bring some of them to be explored by the whole group.
In another moment, I’ll talk about ocean animals for them to explore – the fish, the starfish, the dolphin, the whale, etc. This is a perfect moment to ask kids what other animals we can think about and then explore their movements. The children always have good ideas, because they are fascinated by the animals and their movements.
Another example happened with me in a class with 3 and 4 years old, when we were exploring heavy and light movements. To encourage kids to feel the light quality, I gave them scarves, so they could explore the light movements in many ways. But, to my surprise, they put the scarves on their head, they wrapped themselves up their waist, they made themselves look like they were wearing Superman capes. So, I allowed them to use the scarves in all the ways they want, because that was their curiosity at the moment.
I hope I answered your question about emergent curriculum. Thanks for asking about it – it made me reflect on that subject.